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Turning MIDI files into high-res recordings with Realpiano

A new remote piano recording service says it’s “proud to have played a part” in music made around the world

Two years ago, Jonathan Dodd met with friend and Incognito keyboardist Matt Cooper for lunch and a chat about grand pianos – a purchase Dodd was considering. When the conversation turned to some work Cooper had recently completed using Yamaha’s Disklavier range (a hybrid digital/analogue piano with MIDI input and storage capabilities), it, if you will, struck a chord with Dodd.

“Matt said he had done a session in Malaysia and was able to correct the file afterwards; they had sent him the MIDI file, he corrected it and sent it back. I thought I could offer a service like that was well, and so the idea of Realpiano was born.”

Realpiano turns its clients’ MIDI files into a high-quality audio recording of – what else? – a real piano. Specifically, a seven-foot hand-built Yamaha DS6M4PRO Disklavier grand piano. Having worked with producers and musicians throughout his career, Dodd was well aware of the cost and potential problems piano recording can involve.

As he explains, the idea behind Realpiano is “to provide a really high-end piano recording facility without any of those problems we had encountered previously, and at an affordable price. A full session in a good recording studio with a good piano is going to cost around £1,000 a day once you’ve paid for piano tuning, engineers and session musicians. So for you to be able to send your MIDI file, and for me to edit a couple of things if necessary and then send you back a real grand piano version of your piece – at a fraction of that price – is a pretty cool thing.”

Just last month, Dodd (pictured right) moved his studio to its new location in Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, not too far from Pinewood Studios. The facility is also available for hire, but it’s Realpiano’s remote work that had Dodd and Yamaha working closely together to bring the business to life.

It was David Halford, Yamaha’s business development manager for acoustic pianos, who initially picked up on the idea, says Dodd. “I got in touch with Yamaha and they were amazed because they hadn’t thought of the Disklavier piano being used to provide musicians and creative people with real piano versions of their tracks.”

The conversation led to a meeting with Charles Bozon, sales and marketing director at Yamaha Music, who arranged for Dodd to purchase the newest of the Disklavier series, the E3. Unforutnately, as Dodd explains, “it’s true to say it had software problems”.

After eight months of sending files back and forth between Dodd, Yamaha UK and engineers at the company’s Japanese headquarters, both Dodd and Yamaha had to agree that the E3 wasn’t the right fit for Realpiano – at least, not at that time. (Come back tomorrow to find out why!)